The Number One Theme Park in the U.S. Is…NOT A Disney Park?

If you’re here, it’s likely because you’re a big Disney or Universal Orlando fan.

Main Street, U.S.A.

There are a lot of things we love about these Orlando theme parks (obviously, that’s why we’re there every day and do those fun challenges!), but not everyone agrees. Recently, USAToday 10Best asked theme park fans to vote on the 10 best theme parks in the United States, and you may be surprised to know where Disney and Universal ended up.

According to the readers who voted in this poll, SeaWorld Orlando landed number three on the top 10 best theme parks in the United States! Shocked? You’re not alone.

SeaWorld Orlando Sign

Part of what caused SeaWorld to gain the favor of so many is their high-thrill rides like Manta and Mako (if you’re visiting soon, Mako is currently closed for refurbishment and is set to open in a few weeks). In addition to the thrills, younger guests can also walk down Sesame Street and meet their favorite characters.


The number one park according to the poll is Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri thanks to its “combination of entertainment, festivals, 100 resident craftsmen, and more than 40 rides and attractions.” So where do Disney and Universal end up on this list? Well…nowhere.

©Silver Dollar City

That’s right, none of Disney or Universal’s parks made the top 10 on this list. Here is the full ranking from USA Today:

10. Dollywood
9. Kennywood
8. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
7. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
6. Hersheypark
5. Knoebels
4. Cedar Point
3. SeaWorld Orlando
2. Kings Island
1. Silver Dollar City

©Busch Gardens

Some may be very surprised by this, especially with how busy the Disney and Universal parks seem to be, but as prices for both continue to climb, a vacation to either is simply not in a lot of many visitors’ budgets. This was also the case for this list last year — read all about last year’s list here.

Universal Orlando

In addition, many families may choose to take one smaller vacation every year to one of the Top 10 parks rather than save up for years for one Universal or Disney vacation. However, it’s unclear how big the pool of voters was, or who the amusement park and family travel experts were that put together the list of 20 parks that the public voted on, so its entirely possible many Disney and Universal fans or travel experts weren’t included in this poll.

Magic Kingdom entrance

If you choose to vacation at Disney or Universal, be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for all the latest tips and tricks!

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Where would you have put Disney or Universal on this list? Tell us in the comments!

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16 Replies to “The Number One Theme Park in the U.S. Is…NOT A Disney Park?”

  1. This must have been a very small population. How could you not put Disney and Universal in the top five. SeaWorld and Bush Gardens topping them is laughable. It should be if you don’t want the crowds of Disney and Universal try these alternative parks. Then at least the list would make more sense.

    1. I’d love to see the original list of 20 parks they had to choose from, actually, because I’m wondering if Disney parks or Universal parks were ever on the list of choices they had to narrow down.

  2. Silver Dollar City attracts 2.2 million guests per year and is open seasonally. Magic Kingdom attracts 58 million. Now, which is more popular?

  3. Disney is loosing fans and credibility due to its woke agenda and bad management… As Florida Residents we chose not to renew annual passes and no longer purchase merchandise or Disney plus subscription…

  4. If Silver Dollar City is number one, why are the majority of photos in this article of the other parks? Why not show why SDC was voted as the best?

  5. If you’ve never been to Branson, MO and taken it all in, not just Silver Dollar City, you don’t know what you’re missing.

    The theme parks and live theatre shows of all kinds make for a much more affordable vacation for families.

    1. I’ve been to silver dollar city and it definitely does not beat Disneyland or Universal. It’s small and has only one theme 😂😂😂

      1. The difference for a family of four is SDC is about 1/5 the cost for the entire season and hotels in the area do not cost what Disney on property hotels cost. Definitely missing the butter beer, ROTW and Harry Potter theming but not every family can afford the $6000 to $25000 cost per week at Disney and Universal. They are much more in alignment with the $2500 to $3500 week.

  6. I’m close to Silver Dollar City and it definitely gives more bang for the buck. The festivals alone are worth it and their Christmas season puts others to shame. Love both Disney and Universal but prices are into ridiculousness range now for quite awhile. I think people also forget that ere in “flyover country” we have mountains for hiking, lakes for boating and GOOD food options too. Heck Guy Fieri wants a home in Branson!

    1. Branson is beautiful! I took a trip there with my family and we were surprised by how gorgeous the area is.

        1. Hi Erik! We wanted to just showcase which Orlando theme park made the list and which U.S. theme park was deemed #1. The full list is as follows:

          10. Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
          9. Kennywood – West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
          8. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – Tampa, Florida
          7. Busch Gardens Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia
          6. Hersheypark – Hershey, Pennsylvania
          5. Knoebels – Elysburg, Pennsylvania
          4. Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
          3. SeaWorld Orlando – Orlando, Florida
          2. Kings Island – Mason, Ohio
          1. Silver Dollar City – Branson, Missouri

          Keep in mind, however, that this result was based on a poll USA Today readers voted on and is in no way a jab at other theme parks. Readers were given a list of 20 parks that were narrowed down by “selected amusement park and family travel experts” (per USA Today) and we don’t know where the Disney or Universal parks ever fell on that 20 park list or if they were even suggested as potential nominees. We get a lot of comments from readers who are looking for other theme parks to visit and we thought we would showcase the number one result to keep it short and sweet, but the original USA Today article is linked in the post if you’d like to take a look at what they had to say.